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Prog Brain Res. 2006;155:157-75.

Saccades, salience and attention: the role of the lateral intraparietal area in visual behavior.

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Mahoney Center for Brain and Behavior, Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Neural activity in the lateral intraparietal area (LIP) has been associated with attention to a location in visual space, and with the intention to make saccadic eye movement. In this study we show that neurons in LIP respond to recently flashed task-irrelevant stimuli and saccade targets brought into the receptive field by a saccade, although they respond much to the same stimuli when they are stable in the environment. LIP neurons respond to the appearance of a flashed distractor even when a monkey is planning a memory-guided delayed saccade elsewhere. We then show that a monkey's attention, as defined by an increase in contrast sensitivity, is pinned to the goal of a memory-guided saccade throughout the delay period, unless a distractor appears, in which case attention transiently moves to the site of the distractor and then returns to the goal of the saccade. LIP neurons respond to both the saccade goal and the distractor, and this activity correlates with the monkey's locus of attention. In particular, the activity of LIP neurons predicts when attention migrates from the distractor back to the saccade goal. We suggest that the activity in LIP provides a salience map that is interpreted by the oculomotor system as a saccade goal when a saccade is appropriate, and simultaneously is used by the visual system to determine the locus of attention.

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